Shorthanded Yukon rink wins gold by an inch

Joe Wallingham's loudest yells came in the last game, in the last end, on his last shot. The rock the Yukon skip had sent down the ice for the win was misbehaving.

FAIRBANKS, ALASKA

Joe Wallingham’s loudest yells came in the last game, in the last end, on his last shot.

The rock the Yukon skip had sent down the ice for the win was misbehaving.

“I threw it and I thought it was pretty good, but then it started dying,” said Wallingham. “It dug in and dug in, and when it hit the house it pretty much stopped. I don’t know how it moved an extra foot to get shot, but it was close.

“We were all yelling … it was pretty exciting.”

Wallingham’s rock, with some frantic sweeping from teammate Trygg Jensen, found its target.

With the shot Yukon’s Team Wallingham won gold in junior men’s curling at the Arctic Winter Games on Thursday by an inch.

Yukon defeated Alberta North 7-6 for the top spot.

Making the win all the more dramatic, there were only three Yukoners on the sheet for the gold medal game – and for most of the week, for that matter.

Teammate Will Klassen was out of action on Day 2 with a sports hernia, leaving just Wallingham, Jensen and Brayden Klassen, Will’s older brother.

It meant more throws for Jensen and Brayden, and a lot more sweeping for all three, but they got it done.

“The three of us have been curling all year and we know how each other plays and whatnot, we know how to read each other’s rocks,” said Wallingham. “So it wasn’t that difficult transitioning to three players. It is different because there’s only one sweeper most of the time, so you have to compensate for that.”

The final was tense. The team scored four in the third end to make it 5-1 only to watch the lead erode as Alberta scored individual points over the next four ends.

“It was pretty nerve-racking,” said Wallingham. “We got kind of down on ourselves because they were coming back on us after we were up by so much. They kept stealing on us and we couldn’t score. It was definitely getting old, not scoring, so we just stuck in there and pulled it out in the end.”

“It was definitely a struggle,” said Brayden. “We went up four and then having them come back was a real shocker.”

Alberta North and Yukon locked horns three times in the tournament. Yukon reached the gold medal match with an 8-3 win over Alberta, who then had to beat Alaska to get into the final.

Yukon went 3-1 in the round-robin placing second behind Alberta North, who went undefeated with a 6-4 win over Yukon.

“We knew we’d have to play them three times once we sized up the competition,” said Yukon coach Kevin Patterson. “After we lost to them the first time, we learned a lot of what we needed to do next time in terms of game plans. We definitely executed that in the semi and most of the final and then got it done when we needed to.”

Thursday marked the second Arctic Games in a row Yukon hoisted gold in junior male curling.

The Wallingham rink, with Spencer Wallace as second, placed ninth at the Canadian Junior Curling Championships in January.

“For me this is the climax of the year,” said Patterson. “We put in a lot of hours from the beginning of October up to now. So to cap it off with a very big win is very satisfying.”

Contact Tom Patrick at

tomp@yukon-news.com

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